Heart Disease And COVID-19. Should I Be Concerned?
Recent studies have shown that a number of patients recovering from COVID-19 are experiencing structural heart damage, signals of inflammation or other evidence of injury amongst other issues long after recovering. Rightly, this has caused some concern in heart patients and healthy patients alike. But do we have anything to worry about?
What exactly is the problem?
A German study examined cardiac MRIs of 200 people – one hundred recovered COVID-19 patients and 100 who did not have COVID. Alarmingly, a majority of the COVID patients had the markers of lasting cardiovascular injury even after they recovered.
Should we be concerned?
The answer is yes and no. The first, consideration, in general terms, is that we need to prevent COVID-19 infection in the first place. Currently, the biggest concern for obese and diabetic patients who may or may not have cardiovascular disease is the potential for hospitalization, serious infection or even death, due to COVID. This risk is even greater in older patients.
However, as it relates to heart problems associated with COVID, there is a lot left to be understood. Most importantly, do these heart issues last longer than a few months? Most of these studies have a limited timeframe of reference simply because COVID it hasn’t been around for very long. Therefore, we cannot know if these heart issues are lasting or permanent.
Secondly, it remains to be seen whether the severity of these heart defects is commensurate to the severity of the COVID infection. While we have a significant number of confirmed cases in the United States, there are millions more who never seek care because their infection is mild or they’re asymptomatic and never even know they were sick. Does this group of patients suffer from temporary or lasting heart damage as well?
These are questions that cannot be answered now or for a while into the future.
The Bottom Line
It is clear that COVID affects the body in a number of ways. Heart damage, lung damage and even neurological issues have affected many patients. Knowing this reinforces the need for social distancing and mask wearing, to minimize the risk of contracting the disease in the first place. With that being said, it is important that you take steps, as you always should, to improve your heart health through better diet and exercise. It’s never too late.
It has become increasingly obvious that patients with cardiovascular, lung and metabolic diseases, along with patients of advanced age, are most at risk during this COVID epidemic. We encourage all our patients, no matter how healthy they are, to reevaluate their current health status and make improvements to reduce the possible ill effects, should they contract this disease.